Greece experienced its first major strike of the year on Wednesday.a strike called by the unions protest price hikes and demand wage increases. Although the government of conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis has approved a series of financial aid measures to mitigate rising energy prices, inflationWhat in February, it reached 7.2% year-on-year (the highest rate in the last 25 years), directly affects consumers. Faced with this scenario, the government has not ordered reductions in VAT, as demanded by unions and opposition parties.
Since last September, the government has allocated around 3,700 million euros in aid to households, businesses and farmers, funds that the unions consider insufficient. Mitsotakis is one of many European leaders who have unsuccessfully called for more direct interventions in the gas market, such as price caps or caps on “energy company superprofits”.
The unions in turn demand that the minimum wage be raised due to soaring inflation up to 751 euroscompared to the 663 euros in which it is currently after the increase of 2% approved in January by the executive.
The 24-hour strike called by the private sector union grouped in the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and to which public workers have also joined, as well as representatives of other unions, is celebrated under the motto “The salary is not enough, the accounts do not close”.
“Over the past 14 years, workers have borne the brunt of a deep crisis that has affected incomes and lives around the world”say it GSEE in connection with the Greek financial crisis that began in late 2009 and left the country dependent on international bailouts for a decade.
“The years have passed and the crisis has worsened, the charges remain, the rights are reduced. We go on strike and demand that the government act here and now“, warned the union of private sector workers. Greece is recording a rise in prices, especially of energy and certain basic products such as flour, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Virtually all public transport was paralyzed on Wednesday, except for groups that stopped only from the start of the shift until 9 a.m. and did so again in the afternoon. Along with metro, tram and trolleybuses, a good deal of rail traffic, both commuter and long-distance, has also been halted, although minimal services have been guaranteed.
The ferries also did not leave the ports and the public administrations did not work. In air traffic, the day went normally, since court banned air traffic controllers from joining strike. The media partially joined the protest with a four-hour strikefrom noon to four o’clock in the afternoon.
Thousands of people took to the streets in the morning in different cities of the country in support of union demands. In Athens, the march passed through the center of the capital to Syntagma Square, where the Parliament is located.
Among the protesters were also ministry employees like Jristina Jristidu, who works in the Ministry of Development. Jristidu assured that after ten years of economic crisis, his salary has been reduced so much that he must ask for advances every month to survive, and that the rise in energy prices is making matters worse.
Apostolis Dallas, who works as a tax consultant, argued that the aid the Greek government is giving to deal with rising energy prices “cannot thwart huge price increases”, although he recalled that in Greece high energy and fuel prices have always been a problem, even before the war in Ukraine.
But it’s not all bad news, since Greece has completed early payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of all of its outstanding debtcontracted with the institution since 2010 in the various rescues of the Hellenic country. “End of an era for the IMF as a lender to Greece! An era that the Greeks must not and will never relive“, said the Greek Prime Minister on his Twitter account, Kyriakos Mitstotakis.